Johnson’s Buzzer-Beater Sinks Liberty in ASUN Semifinals, 59-57
Jacksonville State’s Kiana Johnson scored a game-high 21 points including a driving layup as the final buzzer sounded, propelling the host Gamecocks over Liberty, 59-57, in an ASUN Women’s Basketball Championship semifinal, Wednesday at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Liberty (27-4) never led but had just tied the game at 57-all on Kennedi Williams’ layup with 3.3 seconds to play. The Lady Flames, who failed to reach the title game for the first time in four seasons as an ASUN Conference member, will await word on a possible postseason tournament bid Sunday night.
ASUN West Division champion Jacksonville State (24-6) racked up 38 points in the paint while improving to 15-1 at home this season and avenging a 62-57 loss at Liberty on Jan. 29. The Gamecocks will travel to FGCU on Saturday for their first ASUN Championship title game appearance since 1999.
Box Score Highlights
Liberty Individuals: Mya Berkman – 15 points, 9 rebounds; Dee Brown – 11 points, 7 rebounds; Kennedi Williams – 10 points, 3 assists; Bridgette Rettstatt – 7 points, 11 rebounds.
Jacksonville State Individuals: Johnson – 21 points, 9-10 FG; Kennedy Gavin – 17 points; Shawnta Shaw – 13 points, 6 rebounds.
Key Team Stats: JSU shot 48.1 percent (26-of-54) from the field, compared with 39.6 percent (21-of-53) for Liberty. Both teams struggled from three-point range, with Liberty shooting 1-of-12 and Jacksonville State finishing 0-of-5. Liberty outrebounded the Gamecocks 40-27, turning 16 offensive boards into 12 second-chance points. The two teams scored 38 points in the paint apiece, with JSU owning a 17-12 advantage in bench points.
The game was not decided until the final play. After inbounding the ball on the far sideline, Johnson quickly got it back and drove to the basket, unloading the game-winning bank shot from close range just before the final clock reached 0.0.
- Jacksonville State made five of its first six field goal attempts to start the game, including four by Kiana Johnson, while Liberty missed its first six tries from the floor. As a result, the Gamecocks raced out to a 12-3 lead within the first 5:13 of play.
- Liberty held JSU without a made field goal for the remainder of the period, pulling to within 13-9 despite shooting just 18.8 percent (3-of-16) during the first 10 minutes.
- The Lady Flames battled to within a single point (21-20) when Jordan Bailey knocked down the first triple by either team, 1:49 before halftime.
- But the Gamecocks scored the half’s final four points to take a 25-20 halftime lead. JSU scored 18 points in the paint prior to the intermission while holding Liberty to its lowest-scoring first half of the season.
- Liberty outrebounded JSU 14-8 during the third period and was able to tie the score at 30-all on a pair of Dee Brown free throws with 4:48 to play.
- Shawnta Shaw tallied eight third-quarter points for the home team, which went back in front 40-37 heading to the fourth.
- Liberty shot 77.8 percent (7-of-9) from the field during the final period, including a 3-of-3 effort by Williams. The point guard twice tied the score with layups in the final minute (53-53 and 57-57) but the Lady Flames could not get over the hump.
Notes and Nuggets
- Berkman’s 23rd double-digit scoring effort of the season put her over 900 points for her career.
- Brown’s 11 points made her Liberty’s leading scorer for the tournament with 27 tallies in two games.
- Williams’ three assists give her 118 for the season, the most by a Lady Flame since 2014-15, when Sadalia Ellis finished with 135 helpers.
- Rettstatt finished with 10 or more rebounds for the fourth game in a row.
- Wednesday marked Liberty’s first-ever visit to Pete Mathews Coliseum, and the Lady Flames fell to 10-2 on the road this season.
- This is just the fourth time in the last 26 seasons that Liberty has not reached its conference tournament’s title game.
- JSU’s 48.1 percent field goal shooting was the highest percentage Liberty has allowed this season.